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Queen City Oaks wide open
A near-capacity field of 13 Ohio-bred fillies were entered for Saturday's $100,000 Queen City Oaks, and with no standout in the division, the 1 1/8-mile Oaks is shaping up to be an excellent betting race.
Tommeyesgold, Money Card, and Luvaprivate, who have all won stakes this year, are among the likely favorites. Another expected to garner support is Cryptoquip, the only Oaks entrant not based in Ohio, who will ship in from Churchill Downs. His trainer, Tom Proctor, won with his only other starter this meet.
A leading Ohio-bred 3-year-old, Dooze, headlines a third-level statebred allowance at six furlongs on the Oaks undercard. Winner of the Noonan Stakes at Beulah by nearly 14 lengths in April, Dooze subsequently lost as the favorite in both the Horizon Stakes at River and the Cleveland Gold Cup at Thistledown. Both races were around two turns, however, and Dooze has proven to be a more effective sprinter.
* Classical Ryder scored her first win since taking the $50,000 Valdale Stakes at Turfway last February in Tuesday's featured third-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles. The 5 3/4-length romp ended a three-race losing streak for Classical Ryder, who had finished off the board in a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the Bourbonette and La Troienne, and in an optional claimer at Churchill.
Delta Downs officials have set Friday, Dec. 1, as the date for the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot for 2-year-olds. The race was not run last year because of the damage Hurricane Rita caused to the Vinton, La., facility last September.
Delta is scheduled to open an 88-date Thoroughbred meet on Nov. 1, to run through March 31.
The track wrapped up its Quarter Horse meet on July 9. The 52-date season was the first meet run at Delta since Hurricane Rita. The average daily handle on the track's Quarter Horse races was $436,658. Of that amount, an average $50,980 a day was bet ontrack.
Heath Taylor locked up the training title when he sent out Dynomax to win the Grade 1, $392,400 Lee Berwick Futurity for Quarter Horses on closing night. The victory pushed Taylor's totals to 59 wins and stable earnings of $1,188,790 this season at Delta.
Danny Lavergne won the riding title with 71 wins and mount earnings of $912,495. The second-leading rider, with 52 wins, was Tami Purcell.
The leading owner was M.C. Morris, with 18 wins and earnings of $260,968.
- Mary Rampellini
Young trainer Brandon Marks continues to have a successful meeting at Evangeline Downs and is ranked fifth in the trainer standings with 16 wins from 88 starts. Marks, 25, is a native of nearby Beaux Bridge, La., and has been training for about four years. This has been his breakout season, however, due to two of the region's top performers.
Watchem Smokey, 6, has been the comeback story of the year, winning three stakes in 2006, including the $75,000 John Henry at Evangeline on May 6. He took the second half of 2005 off for some freshening and has returned to the level that made him one of the most feared 3-year-olds in the region.
In his most recent start, Watchem Smokey shipped over to the Dallas area and finished unplaced in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap.
"He bled in that race," Marks said Wednesday morning. "It was hot and humid that day, plus he was on the lead against some very good horses through a 1:10 three-quarter split."
Marks went on to say that Watchem Smokey is well on schedule to return in the $150,000 Evangeline Mile on Aug, 12.
Follow the Storm, a 3-year-old Stormin Fever colt, has Marks even more excited.
"We knew when we saw him in a sale in Florida that he was something special," Marks said. "He got colic real bad not long after and underwent emergency surgery, but he made it and has been outstanding since."
After finishing sixth in his debut in February, when he bled, according to Marks, Follow the Storm went on Lasix and has reeled off four wins in a row to rapidly complete his conditions. He was scheduled to make his stakes debut over the Louisiana Downs turf in the Excalibur Stakes on June 30 but was scratched because of some shoe issues.
"We are looking at a couple of spots for him coming up," said Marks. "We nominated to six-figure stake at Fairmount, plus there is the Prelude over the Labor Day weekend at Louisiana Downs. We think he deserves a shot."
- Jeff Taylor
Bettors who felt trainer Steve Manly would have a good night last Friday might have been as happy as Manley was when the evening's 10-race card was completed. Manley won with 4 of his 6 starters, with 3 starting at 9-2 or better. A $2 win bet on all Manley starters would have returned $55.60, or a return on investment of $9.27 for every $2 wagered.
Leading rider Rafael Hernandez had an even bigger night, winning five races, including the seventh aboard Lady Umeant ($20.20) for Manley.
* While unlikely to produce legitimate contenders for next month's $250,000 St. Louis Derby, last Saturday's $20,720 Red Cloud Handicap provided an opportunity for some of the better locally based 3-year-olds to showcase their talents over a distance of ground. Smooth Cart avenged his loss to Tunnel Marte in an overnight handicap earlier in the meet to take the Red Cloud by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:43 for a mile and 70 yards.
Earlier on Saturday's card, Stormy o' Bryan earned his third win of the meet, pulling off the minor upset of odds-on Mr. Mink in a six-furlong money allowance that was run in 1:09.80. Stormy o' Bryan earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.
- Vance Hanson
Great Lakes Downs
Weatherstorm, last year's Michigan champion 2-year-old, won his third straight race in the $50,000 Spartan Stakes Tuesday at Great Lakes Downs. Trained by Robert Gorham and owned by his sister Marion Gorham, Weatherstorm drew off late for a 2 1/4-length win over Prince Nick. Shoot with Pride, also trained by Gorham, was third.
Earlier in the meet, Weatherstorm accounted for the $50,000 Lansing Stakes and an allowance race. Terry Houghton, the runaway leader in the rider standings at the meet, was aboard the Island Storm gelding for all three wins.
* On the filly-and-mare stakes side, Charedi's Peak, owned by the Campbell Stable and trained by Ronnie Allen, continued her winning ways at Great Lakes, where she is undefeated, by winning the $50,000 Plymouth Stakes by two lengths over Summer Cyclone and Nell's Enjoyment. Mike Allen, son of the trainer, rode her in the Plymouth and the recent Regret Stakes. She has won all four of her races here, including the Michigan Juvenile Fillies last year.
* Saturday night the track will host a Muskegon Air Fair party, featuring elite parachutists from the United States Army. They will parachute into the infield between races and take part in a race with several of the jockeys. The annual Muskegon Air Fair is Saturday and Sunday at the nearby Muskegon Airport.
Add the hot barn of Kelly Von Hemel to the list of trainers coming back to a rejuvenated Remington Park. He was the second-leading trainer at the recent Thoroughbred meet at Prairie Meadows and is bringing a 20-horse stable to Oklahoma City for the meet, which opens Aug. 4.
"We're looking forward to coming down there," he said. "It's been at least seven, eight years."
Von Hemel's stable includes such quality 3-year-olds as Jazzy Okie, a multiple stakes winner; Okie Time, a half-brother to stakes winner That Tat; and Miss Macy Sue, who was second last out in the $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows.
Remington opened a casino last fall, and it has helped push purses from $100,000 a day to $185,000 a day. Von Hemel said the increase is one reason he is coming back to Remington.
"First of all," he said, "I really liked it down there. I liked the city. I liked the racing surface. I liked the backstretch. I liked Remington Park."
* A new Oklahoma Stallion Stakes program is being launched, with races in the series to be run at Remington in the fall of 2009. At that time, a pair of stakes for 2-year-olds will be contested and each will have an estimated purse of $55,000. There are also races set up for Will Rogers Downs in 2010.
- Mary Rampellini